There are many difficult things about being a military spouse. Giving birth or managing postpartum time while the boat is out to sea, can be a very difficult and stressful time. We had just confirmed my fourth pregnancy when my spouse said “I don’t think I will be here for the birth.”
While he was able to be present for the birth, he left while we were still in the recovery room in the hospital. I took my four-day old to the beach to wave goodbye. My spouse returned when my newborn was 12 weeks old.
As soon as we thought he wouldn’t be present, we started preparing as if he wasn’t going to be there. This blog post is meant to give information for both practical purposes (i.e. how do I notify the boat?) and tips for supporting yourself if you find yourself in a similar predicament.
I found out two hours before my induction that my spouse could be present. However, I prepared for birth without him. Here are the things I did to help prepare myself and my care team:
- Speak to your caregiver (OB or Midwife) as soon as you think your spouse may not be present. I spoke with my OB team early on about the possibility that my spouse would not be present for the birth. As I was high risk and we had just found out that my spouse would “more than likely” not be present, around 30 weeks my OB and I made more specific plans. We made sure my birth plan was in my file and we discussed a plan for potential spontaneous labor alone, as I had a history of spontaneous precipitous labor. I had to do a lot of advocating and educating my provider and their staff regarding submarine life-many of them just assumed that my spouse could “get off” or just Facetime. We also made a note to have the nurses stop asking me if I wanted to “Skype or Facetime the father” while in labor, because I was asked this at every prenatal appointment after I informed the office that my spouse would not be present.
- Plan your support for labor and delivery. I hired a Doula with experience providing support to women in labor while their spouse was deployed. Tricare does cover some labor doula services. For more information, click here. I have also been present in the labor and delivery room with friends while they delivered. Figure out what type of support you want and actively seek them out. I knew I did not want my friends or family in the labor room, so I chose to use a doula.
- Complete a medical POA at the delivery hospital/birth center. Due to the nature of why I was high risk, I wanted to make sure that if something happened to me or the baby, the hospital knew who to contact and who had medical POA for both myself and my baby. Even if you do not anticipate any problems during labor and delivery, it is still recommended to complete a medical POA or advance directive.
- Notify the boat that the baby was born. There are a few ways to do this. Contacting the Ombudsman is one of the best ways. You can also complete a Red Cross message. I recommend coordinating with the Ombudsman to figure out the best way to notify the boat.
- Make travel arrangements home. This is often overlooked, but you need someone to drive you home. My initial plans to get home from the hospital fell through and I almost stayed an additional night while we figured out how I would get home. Luckily a friend was able to come get us and bring us home. Ask your hospital/birth center ahead of time what their requirements are for discharge so that you can be ready.
My spouse had to report back to the boat while my son and I were in the recovery ward. Here are some tips/tricks/things to know related to navigating the post-partum time without your spouse:
- Create a maintain a support network. I had my mom and then my in-laws stay with me for about three weeks right after my baby was born. I also had a friend stay with me when I was about 7 weeks postpartum as I prepared to go back to work part-time. Having other adults in the house helped me with my older kids, but also allowed me to get the rest I needed after labor and delivery.
- Hire a post-partum doula. Consider hiring a doula to come to the house and help with anything postpartum related. The doula I hired for birth was also a postpartum doula, and she visited once when my son was about three weeks old. You can also find overnight nannies to help with night shift.
- Utilize your spouse network. I had so many people asking me if I needed help, at times it was overwhelming. However, I reached out when I needed support. This is a great time for a meal train, or sending older kids over to play with friends. I had a friend stop by after work one day and just help me clean up my kitchen and living room.
- Utilize Navy resources. The NMCRS Visiting Nurse Program is a great resource. Some bases have support groups (Kings Bay currently has a postpartum support group, and many hospitals do as well). PSI also has resources for military families who are having difficulties during the post partum time.
- Register the baby in DEERS/Tricare. Be sure to check out our previous blgo post, “Check-List: What to do after you have a baby”. If you are preparing to have a baby or be postpartum while the boat is out to sea, you need to prepare to complete these checklists by yourself. My spouse completed a military specific POA, which allowed me to modify/add children to DEERS and Tricare. These POAs can be completed at base legal, or printed up and notarized. Babies are automatically added to Tricare for 60 days following their birth, but DEERS requires new babies be enrolled 30 days after birth. You need the baby’s birth certificate to enroll in DEERS. You do not need the SSN, but if you can wait to enroll after receiving the SSN, it will save you a trip to the DEERS office. I enrolled my infant in DEERS when he was 2 weeks old. I had his birth certificate, SSN and my POA. It took about 30 minutes to complete. The next day, I called Tricare and enrolled him officially in Tricare.
Even though my spouse was out to sea, this was one of my smoothest deliveries and postpartum times. I credit that to the planning I did during pregnancy and the support network I created for myself. There are bumps in the road with any pregnancy, delivery and postpartum time. But with some planning, you can smooth out the bumps so they are not as disruptive.
Please share any tips or tricks you have for others navigating delivery and postpartum while the boat is out to sea!